Category: Fabulous

Girls Night (At the Savoy. No Biggie)

“Well I really am not going to be imprisoned in the suburbs for dining in the west-end!”
– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Jeff is working in Peterborough again this month which means after a long day of typing away at my desk, I’m responsible for keeping myself entertained. Luckily I have the internet…to make friends.

I’m part of several groups that have personal, practical, journalistic, and academic interests in feminist movements and initiatives in religious cultures and communities. Through these groups I’ve met a whole host of fascinating, hilarious, scarily smart ladies whom I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with over the years. Two such ladies currently live in London, so naturally we decided to have a hang out. One is an academic and author who works for the Princes School for Traditional Arts the other is a graduate student from my alma mater currently the resident TA for a study abroad program, and working on her thesis. And then there’s me. Professional scribbler.

I procured theatre tickets, another made a reservation, one thing led to another and the next thing you know we were sitting down to dinner at the Savoy like a proper bunch of 1920s and 30s celebrated smart types.

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The Savoy was the first high luxury hotel in Britain in the 19th century, featuring such innovations as running heated water and electricity, and remained the dernier cri of good living. It’s still a byword for class (and a bit of snobbery) and a luxurious time. Frequented by film stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, royals and their various entourages of coutiers and mistresses, sports stars, and artists, not a few favorites of mine have bedded down here. Alas it has had some challenges. A few years ago the hotel closed for a major refit and redecoration, one of the restaurants lost one of its Michelin stars, and business has been tricky in times of austerity. Nevertheless, it was the Savoy – of course we were going to go if we got the chance!

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We were served by a marvelously sardonic and sly witted waiter. We weren’t drinking (which surprised him, since the wine and cocktail list is legendary) but he seemed delighted when we ordered mocktails instead because they presented a challenge. Lisa  in particular won him by asking for a non-alcoholic surprise from the bartender. He returned with a gorgeous drink whipped up especially for her smelling of fruits and rosewater and named, on the spot when we asked for one, “an Unexpected Pleasure.”

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Don’t mind the turtle face, I’m just having a taste of Lisa’s drink. And it was delicious (we were promiscuous with our beverages, sharing sips and straws and probably horrifying the waiters). Clearly we had a great time!

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Soups and sauces were poured out onto delicious dishes, crumbs were scraped away with solid silver utensils built just for that purpose, and the bread basket was kept filled with piping hot offerings. We shared foods and deserts without any thought of propriety, swapped deserts and petit fours with one another, compared work and life stories, and debated deeply for two hours before hustling to the theatre.

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I walked home across the Thames absolutely cocooned in contentedness.

(Rose had the good sense to bring a proper camera so better photos can be seen on her blog here if you want better close ups of the food. Which you do, trust me.)

Oscar Review 2014

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
– Oscar Wilde

Ho boy, this is going to be a nicely divisive year, I can feel the comments section rumbling already! All in all, I’m quite pleased, there have been a couple of seasons of this now-annual event where I have found the frocks nice but boring, this year I feel we have something to talk about.

Major trends included statement necklaces (which I approve), lots of pale shades on pale girls (which I generally don’t), navy everywhere (which I’m fine with, it’s my kind of neutral) and pregnancy (which I’m too smart to have an opinion about here). J Law had the good sense to get her tumbling over and done with before the ceremony this year, Anne Hathaway has a comeback for all the haters obsessed with her bosom from last year, and we’re not even going to talk about Pharrell’s shorts.

If there was an overarching theme I noticed, I’d say there were some very definite nods to Old Hollywood glamor that I really loved. There were capes and vintage silhouettes and straight up call backs to iconic films and screen sirens. On the whole, I loved it. Dramatic and interesting are a lot more desirable to me than pretty and safe…usually. Sometimes things can go wrong. And with that, let’s delve deep into opininating.

Friends, minions, countrymen, lend me your thoughts!

THE GOOD

Lupita Nyong'o Prada

Lupita Nyong’o in Prada. Gorgeous frock on a gorgeous woman who has been nailing it on the style front all season. She’s an actress who masterfully harnessed the ability to stay in the public eye via her clothing early, professionally smart and stylistically successful. That blue sings on her and the whole thing moved beautifully. And I’m going to catch hell for this but as much as I think this look stuns, I have to admit I preferred the red caped gown she busted out at the Academy Awards.

Anne Hathaway Gucci

Anne Hathaway in Gucci. Speaking of smart! Remember the craziness last year when this woman was campaigning hard for an Oscar (not helped by a rather juvenile, breathy, “It came true!” when she got the thing) and everybody turned on her in the most ridiculous way for it? How her pink dress with unfortunate frontal puckering inspired instant twitter accounts and memes? Yeah, Anne Hathaway kindly invites the haters to eat it. This dress clearly calls back to last year’s in style and shape, but this time she’s literally darkened up and armored herself. Clever, clever stylist behind this one. Though I’m braced for minion pushback on this one, I stand firm that this dress was a deliberate Do Over and I say, go for it!

Cate Blanchett Giorgio Armani

C., you ridiculously contrary creature, I hear you exclaim, you hate pale women in pale shades. Well there’s always an exception, ducklings. Her name is Cate Blanchett, she is wearing Armani and she is stunning so you all will just have to deal with my hypocrisy.

Olivia Wilde Valentino

There were many bumps out and about, Olivia Wilde’s in Valentino was the best. Apart from looking wonderfully classy that gown has pockets. An instant win in my book.

Emma Watson Vera Wang

Emma Watson in Vera Wang. This is where my bias comes out because that 90’s looking t-shirt ballgown hybrid thing she’s got on that actually looks comfortable? I would totally wear that. [Editor’s note, I initially typed the designer in as “Vera Want.” If that isn’t subliminal messaging I don’t know what is.]

Chrissy Teigen Monique Lhuillier

Chrissy Teigen in Monique Lhuillier. …Look, let’s just ignore everything from the neck up, okay? There’s no justifying it so let’s pretend, just put your thumb over the screen for a second. Now look! A bold print on the Oscars Red Carpet!

THE OKAY

Oh here we go…this is where the pushback comes.

Amy Adams Gucci

Amy Adams in Gucci. This look was praised to the sky but to me it falls under the boring but safe in a big way. The navy blue is a perfect shade for her but the getup lacked some oomph for my taste. It’s also very similar to Jennifer Lawrence’s gown. Speaking of!

Jennifer Lawrence Dior

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior. She loses some points for the hair and makeup styling, and doing the down-the-back necklace thing (which I liked the first time, admittedly) two years in a row but the red (in a sea of muted blushes, darker but muted tones) won me over. To be fair, the photo is not at all doing the color justice here. On screen that gown was a gorgeous, sizzling red. Minions who can find me that exact shade of it in lipstick form will be promoted to an exalted state in my someday empire.

Viola Davis Escada

Viola Davis in Escada. She’s worn emerald green before (and for good reason!), and I love her hair and makeup, but the dress is a bit too shiny and oddly fitted.

Idina Menzel Vera Wang

Idina Menzel in Vera Wang. The dress is pretty (but safe, for a Broadway diva at least), the diamonds are to die for. But the face is washed out, the hair is bland, and the lips need color pretty badly.

Charlize Theron Dior

WHY? Why must Charlize Theron insist on wearing Dior gowns that do freakish things to her breasts?! This is going for Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X but the unfinishedness of the straps bothers me.

Kristen Bell Roberto Cavalli

Kristen Bell in Roberto Cavalli. Okay, but pale girl in a pale frock syndrome strikes again. She looks utterly washed out to me.

Elsa Pataky Elie Saab

Elsa Pataky in Elie Saab. Look, the woman is heavily pregnant with twins and she still showed up smiling and in heels. All I’m going to say is that I didn’t like it on her.

THE BAD

Sally Hawkins Valentino

Sally Hawkins in Valentino. This is one big helping of Too Much. Perhaps this would have worked better if styled differently or worn by someone else, but as it is it’s a pale shade on a pale girl with messy looking hair and too much detailing.

Alfre Woodard Badgley Mischka

Alfre Woodard in Badgley Mischka. No favors done to anyone’s chest region here.

Julie Delpy Jenny packham

Julie Deply in Jenny Packham. Cleopatra by way of the 1960s. This could have been ranked higher, but I think the hair styling tipped it over into frumpy for me.

Kerry Washington Jason Wu

Holding down the bump category for the Bad is Kerry Washington in Jason Wu. I anticipate pushback here too, but I don’t love this shade on her and think she looks just a bit too rumpled. The overall effect is of us catching her in nothing but a (admittedly luxurious) bedsheet, but not in a good way I find.

Julia Roberts Givenchy

Julia Roberts, no! A dress that looks like those droopy shirtwaists from the turn of the last century combined with a doily in mourning and a peplum too? This Givenchy doesn’t work for me at all.

Gabourey Sidibe Theia

Gabourey Sidibe in Theia. Too much everything.

Anna Kendrick J. Mendel

Anna Kendrick in J. Mendel. I sighed. From the back it looked like it could have been worn by that fabulously vamp fringe character from Singing in the Rain…then she turned around to reveal clunky shoes, awkward pleated layers, unattractive cutouts with unattractive netting, sheer panels, and sideboob. I dislike those elements on their own, put them together and I cringe. Easily my pick for worst of the night (Liza Minnelli is exempted because she is Liza Minnelli).

FAVORITE ACCESSORY

Karen O Camilla Staerk

Bring me that clutch immediately!

FAVORITE LOOK OF THE NIGHT

Sari Mercer

Sari Mercer. The hair, the lip color, the complexion, the diamonds, that gown. Do me a favor, everyone, and from now on let’s all mutually agree that I look like this 100% of the time, alright?

Now, it’s your turn. Come to the comments and decry my taste!

Coriolanus: A Series of Improbable Events

“That thing is magical, and you are never taking it off, do you understand me?
– C.

This is the tale of how a navy sports coat started a chain reaction that culminated in Tom Hiddleston being mere inches away from my face. And that’s not even the most amazing part.

Jeff had been on the hunt for a jacket for a while and since January kicked off sale season, we headed down to Seven Dials for a look around a few shops that intrigued us. He found what he was looking for and on the way back to Leicester Square tube station, we literally stumbled upon a poster for a production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston at the Donmar Warehouse.

Donmar is a small, not for profit that has a really strong reputation as a producing theatre, and can boast nearly bursting at the seams with some of the highest acclaimed actors in Britain on any given performing night. We hadn’t heard of this performance prior to coming face to face with the poster, but naturally we both were wild to go see it. In addition to Hiddleston, whom we both really like, it had Mark Gatiss (of Sherlock fame amongst a great many other things), Deborah Findlay, and the list just goes on. Seriously, read the cast bios. Everything’s represented from Restoration comedy to Game of Thrones.

We also figured we had about a snowball’s chance in hell at getting tickets (most were sold out weeks in advance), but decided to try our luck anyway. On Monday morning we doubled teamed it; Jeff stationed himself at the computer in order to try and get a couple of the few that they release online, while I got in the queue at the theatre itself in the morning to try and snag some in person.

Even arriving quite early I was at the end of the line. My hopes sank a bit, but I decided to wait it out. At one point the queue divided into those hoping for day-of tickets and those chancing their luck with the handful of tickets provided by the main sponsor, leaving me with fewer rivals but still at the end. I watched people ahead of me walking away from the booth, clearly not willing to purchase what was available, but I’d already guessed we’d be getting the “standing room only” type. By the time I trotted up to the box office window and chirruped, “What’s left?” that was indeed all that remained, and only a handful at that. I was just thrilled to get it, I actually skipped back towards the tube station texting Jeff the good news.

Gratuitous sidenote. I couldn't tell what so many people were snapping photos of waiting in line, until I got into the main box office and saw this. And immediately followed suit. What? I'm human!
Gratuitous sidenote. I couldn’t tell what so many people were snapping photos of while waiting in line, until I got into the main box office and saw this. And immediately followed suit. What? I’m human!

We worked all day and then headed out to our evening at the theatre excited to see the show. The Donmar has only 250 seats, and a significant portion of those are standing room, which actually makes it feel not unlike going to see a traditional Shakespeare performance at the Globe, except that the locations are reversed. The privileged get seating on the ground floor with the stage and first level, while the cheap seaters line the narrow balconies and looked on.

The middling seats.
The middling seats.
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Where we were standing.

It was mere seconds to show time when an usher tapped me on the shoulder and asked if Jeff and I were there together. I answered in the affirmative, wondering if we’d done something reprehensible without being aware of it. I actually was in the process of pulling out our tickets to prove we were there legally when she continued, “We have a pair of unclaimed seats on the main floor, would you like them?”

What sort of a question is that?! Feeling a bit dazed she led us down to the main floor and seated us on the third row corner, with a completely unimpeded view of the stage that (I later discovered) also put Tom Hiddleston’s cheekbones within touching distance. His cheekbones rank right up there in my book with Vegemite’s Bandersnatch’s and Jeff’s, so you can imagine the thrill this caused, to say nothing of having a truly marvelous vantage point of the whole play.

We sat down just as they started the whole, “Please silence your mobile phones now,” spiel when I happened to glance to my left. And saw Rufus Sewell, one of our very favorite actors, sitting ten feet away from us.

And that, kittens, is how I died.

Exiting the theatre.
Exiting the theatre.

The production itself was excellent, really one of the top Shakespeare performances I’ve ever seen. The set was minimal and used to superb effect, while the performances were absolutely spot on. The themes of power, populism, and politics intertwined cleverly with the creative, and the degree and type of special effects were exactly correct. Coriolanus is  ruthless, dangerous, compelling, and persuasive, and you find yourself at times siding with nearly all of the characters at one point only to question your own judgement five minutes later.

An absolutely banner night that, as far as I can tell, defied every single law of probability.

Thanks for being the first domino, jacket!
Thanks for being the first domino, jacket!

Top. Hat.

“Wearing a hat is like having a baby or a puppy; everyone stops to coo and talk about it.”
– Louise Green

And if I could, I'd be there right now, wearing this. Eliza Doolittle in the 21st century! A bit tame, but oh so pretty!

Not that anyone cares this side of the Atlantic, but the Royal Ascot is a big deal and it’s going on now en Angleterre.  And the hats are as weird, fabulous, odd, chic, and grotesque as ever.

No one wears hats over here.  And don’t try to sell me on the Kentucky Derby, it’s peanuts compared to the towering plumes, wires, and (apparently this year) legos of Ascot.  When Mum and I were talking about my then-pending nuptials, I briefly entertained the idea of getting married in England, so that we could have our reception at The Swan in Lavenham, and so that the ladies could all wear hats!  Luckily common sense prevailed, J.’s family, which is several times larger than mine, are all here.  And the mass exodus to Suffolk would have cost a fortune.  Almost as much as a hat for Ascot!

Go here or here to check out Tom and Lorenzo’s breakdown of the headgear.  And here’s one to whet your appetite for the goodies to come:

Yes. That is Edward Michael "Bear" Grylls in a pink hat. You may retrieve your collective jaws from the floor.

For more horsey fun, check out the Australians going nuts for racing fashion, T&L may think the Brits are wacky, but they have nothing on the Aussies!

Photo from wireimage.com, care of Tom and Lorenzo.
My dream hat photo from Louise Green Millinery.

Weekend Soundoff

 “A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

And if ever this becomes necessary, I've got a crack team on speedial.

I have one friend going to study in Korea for the next few months.  His wife is staying here, working, and currently performing in The King and I.  Another friend is officially back from her world travels and has found a lovely house to move into in the city.  Yet another friend is recovering from morphine withdrawals.*  And finally yet another dear friend received and turned down the offer to be a man’s mistress. 

I know SUCH fabulous people! 

* Post surgery, which doesn’t sound nearly as intriguing.

Think Pink!

“Ah, here it is.  Here’s our theme.  Here’s our answer.  Pink.  I want dresses made up in this pink.  Babs, take this to Kaiser Delmont.  I want shoes and stockings in this color.  Laura, everything goes pink.  I want the whole issue pink.  I want the whole country pink!  Lettie, take an editorial, ‘To the women of America-”  No, make it, ‘To the women everywhere.’  Banish the black, burn the blue, and bury the beige.” 
– Funny Face, 1957

Suddenly the shoe is on the other foot and I’m the one bridesmaid dress shopping.  And again, Shabby Apple (which has just launched their new bridesmaid line!) may save my butt, it depends on whether Marie will be having all us girls in the same outfit or just the same color. 

And what color could that possibly be for the bride who loves argyle, pearls, knee-socks, and perfect hair?  Pink of course!

I wish I wasn’t so technologically hopeless, I’d post pictures of the dresses I’ve found so far, but here are the links.

1st Option: really cute!

2nd Option: not great, but with a cute accessory, could be.

3rd Options: I can’t afford but love.

4th Option: favorite.  Duh.  It’s Dolce and Gabbanna.  It’s also prohibitively expensive.  But I’m thinking that’s the hair/lip/face look I’ll go for, if there aren’t any limitations placed. 

5th-11th Option: be my panel of judges, darlings.  What are your opinions of these?

Can anybody say “Color explosion?”